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E3 Businesses

Voice Actors Protest at E3 144

Thought it wasn't really covered by any of the news sites, there were apparently several protests by voice actors at this year's E3. ShackNews has a piece on the under-reported event. From the article: "To deny working-class performers their fair share of the tremendous profits their labor helps to generate is illogical, unreasonable and unjust...It is simply shortsighted to believe that consumers don't care about the artistic quality of the characters."
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Voice Actors Protest at E3

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  • $375/hr? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lunarscape ( 704562 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @12:58PM (#12636686)
    At $375 an hour, you'd think every videogame out there would have top-notch voice acting. Hell, pay me in pizza and I'll easily match the quality of acting in most games today. ^_^
    • Re:$375/hr? (Score:2, Interesting)

      A friend of mine is actually a voice actor. He's been in some big video games as well. He is quite talented and the range of voices he does is amazing. According to him if the voice acting is poor, its sometimes the director, not the voice actor.

      I really do think that voice acting brings a ton to the table in video games (example: Star Wars KOTOR). Although I agree that $375 an hour is quite expensive, how much does an actor make?
      • Re:$375/hr? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ZephyrXero ( 750822 )
        Plus these guys are freelance so they've got to make more money than the average joe b/c they don't know when they'll get their next gig.
        • Re:$375/hr? (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Golias ( 176380 )
          Plus these guys are freelance so they've got to make more money than the average joe b/c they don't know when they'll get their next gig.

          $50/hour web contractors don't know when they'll get their next gig either, but I don't hear any of them crying.

          I have no sympathy for somebody who gets to do something as fun as providing the voices for a video game and thinks there's something wrong with the industry if they can't make a living off it.

          You want a steady living? In the words of Mr. Pink: "Learn to f
    • That's what happens when you have a strong union and employers lack the courage to fight back against it. These actors aren't demanding money because they deserve or need it, they're demanding it because the union reps have nothing better to do, and know that there's a pretty good chance the game studios will cave in or at least come close with some sort of compromise.

      It's a shame that more executives in this country aren't afraid to stand up to unions.
      • I'm guessing you are making reference to this. [reuters.com].

        "LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two of the key unions representing actors have asked their members to authorize a strike against the video game industry after talks on a new master agreement between the two sides broke down."

        I can see in some games where the voice is important (Lord of the Rings for example) but in many other games, I really don't care who is doing the voices. The game play is generally what matters most to me.

        Also from the article...

        "Th
        • How long until voice overs are out sourced?

          Holy crap! After reading your comment I started having flashbacks of a TurboGrafx-16 / TurboDuo demo VHS tape I got in the mail way back in the day. It had a clip of Prince of Persia and there was an Indian-sounding voice-over that said, "In Price of Persia you must hurry effendi"

          Yeah, outsourcing voice acting might not be such a good idea.
  • This is just a case of simple greed off of a successful industry. There are VERY few games that sell well on the strength of VAs. In fact i'd go so far as to say that VAs detract from more games than they add to.
    • I'd completely with you there. Until I start hearing some quality you guys are being babies for demanding more than $375/hour and then complaining.

      Given that I know several people that work directly with them and some of them do multiple jobs within one day (and got paid for the full day of work at both places because of their contracts.) I don't feel a whit for them.
    • You're partially right...this is greed off a successful industry. Publishers make way more than than their fair share of the profits. Every single person on the development team should get a portion of the profits. Flat fees are what's bloating the development cost of games these days. If all the programers, artists and whatnot got a little piece of the profits pie then you would have to pay them as much in the first place, but the publishers are willing to pay that larger upfront fee in hopes they make muc
      • Quite a few developers do have profit sharing plans for their employees but not a lot of games reach the break even point where any money is actually being paid. But even if the actors would get their fair share they work only up to a week whereas most developers put in 100 weeks into a title so the distribution to the voice actor would be in the 1% of what a full team member would get which would be maybe 1% of what the developer would get above their costs to be covered depending on the team size.

        I don't
    • Given the quality of a lot of the voice acting, I have to agree. But sometimes it works, and sometimes it makes a difference. Max Payne did well, and decent voice acting is a major point in graphic adventures (such as Monkey Island).
  • Voice synthesis (Score:2, Insightful)

    by grub ( 11606 )

    Voice synthesis is getting better all the time. One day there won't be a need for "voice actors" just as CGI is replacing actors and 'muppets' (eg Yoda)
    • Voice synthesis is getting better all the time. One day there won't be a need for "voice actors" just as CGI is replacing actors and 'muppets' (eg Yoda)

      You must be joking.

      While you point to Yoda as an example, you fail to mention Gollum, who, while CGI, needed a live actor (Andy Serkis) to give animators an idea as to how Gollum would move and act.

      If that isn't enough. Here are some other ideas:

      While I cannot quote a direct source, when electronic music was becoming rampantly popular in the mi
      • While I agree with most of what you say...you've got to be joking about the Stage Actors right? I mean, I appreciate it myself...but most Americans have never been to anything more than a high school play or something...
        • but most Americans have never been to anything more than a high school play or something...

          Who's going to see shows like The Lion King, Spamalot, and The Producers, which are often sold out MONTHS in advance while on Broadway (sometimes YEARS in advance)?

          How do you explain the absolutely rediculous lines in front TKTS (half price tickets to NYC shows, usually reservation cancellations) on a regular basis?

          I wouldn't make the assumption that most Americans have never been to anything more than a hig
        • Movies are cheaper, funnier (sometimes), I don't have to leave my house, there are no messed up lines (Except for Jay in Clerks), and there are better sets, because they don't have to move them back and forth in 12.6 seconds. Plays are dead, until they come back as an elitist trend.
          • There's just something nice about seeing a living breathing human doing the acting in person as compared to on a flat screen. I guess youre also not a big fan of live concert and perfer CDs?
      • Re:Voice synthesis (Score:2, Interesting)

        by grub ( 11606 )

        While you point to Yoda as an example, you fail to mention Gollum, who, while CGI, needed a live actor (Andy Serkis) to give animators an idea as to how Gollum would move and act.

        Sure, and as studios build up libraries of movements they can use those in place of real people wearing suits with reflective points on them. The original Star Wars movie, back only in 1977, used models on sticks and fancy filmwork to achieve the goal. I won't bother arguing on music or other tangents.

        Electronics replacing a h

    • "...just as CGI is replacing actors and 'muppets' (eg Yoda)"

      Though many people I know still prefer the Yoda muppet.
    • You may be right.

      There won't be a need for voice actors in those situations where the consumers of the games don't care what the character sounds like. I'd guess that this comprises the vast majority of game players. [acapela-group.com] [I don't know how long the link will stay active]

      If a producer doesn't need to have a character sound like a particular live human being, they'll increasingly opt for the low or no cost option of a synthetic voice. No pesky humans asking to be paid for their labor.

      If the producer does

    • One day there won't be a need for "voice actors"

      Eventually I'd think it will help eliminate the need for multiple voice actors. You'd still need a human to get the accent and inflection and stuff right, then mask it with whatever voice you want to use.
    • One day there won't be a need for "voice actors" just as CGI is replacing actors and 'muppets' (eg Yoda)

      CGI doesn't replace the actor. The animator is the actor. The "voice actor" is an actor. Character animation and voice must merge to create a unified performance.

  • They just need to get in league with some programmers and switch voice overs. You know voice over the Winnie the Pooh game with GTA sounds and vice-versa. That would get peoples attention real fast.
  • by FidelCatsro ( 861135 ) <fidelcatsro AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @01:04PM (#12636743) Journal
    So many games fall short in the audio department because they decide that its resonible to skimp on the VO work . Now I am not suggesting they pay the outrageous union prices (Alot of us who do VO work and are non union will do it for a hell of alot less) , but they need to properly audition and not just throw the janitor on at the last minute(though some games luck out with asigning staff parts , DMA(now rock star north) infact used their marketing manager for one of the DJs on GTA3.
    They need to take care not to taint their work with shoody poorly acted cheese ala Anime Dubbings.
    A game can be a work of art , but if you just shove on bob from marketing who sounds like a squeaking rabbit as the all Macho one man army charichter then it can really blow the immersion.

    So please please if your making a game that requires acting then please atleast audition properly and take care , there are plenty of younger actors and non union folks willing to work and hard just for the love of it (but we do prefer cash ;) ).
    • Yeah, I'd much rather get a good no name actor than a "decent" celebrity voice actor anyway. It's disgusting how people think you have to have popular celebs (not counting licenced games) as your main characters for it to be good...
      • The problem with a celebrity is with alot of them you dont think wow *Charichter* is acted well , you think wow thats *celebrity* doing *charichter . You can still lose alot of the imerrsion .
        Now i know alot of actors are great at voice work and can make you forget they are *celebrity* and just *charichter* but alot are not.
        If you have a no-name with tallent then your gaurenteed to have immersion if they are cast well .
    • They had good actors for the in-game video and audio for the first edition. Then they released the "Gold Edition" and they'd redone the voice and video work with extremely crappy actors. I later found out it was the developers of the game indulging their vanity! Fortunately I was able to use the old videos in the new version, saved the game for me.
    • The worst voice acting I have ever heard was the first SOCOM.

      You hear a rather plain, male adult voice yell "outgoing!" when you toss a grenade. It sounds like it belongs in a language teaching course tape.

      The voices for UT2004 sounded much more "military".
      • Have you ever played the game Nox by westwood studios , If you think SOCOM is bad then imagin that mixed with a dose of direction by Phantom menace era lucas with sprinklings of parmasan and Gouda
    • A game can be a work of art , but if you just shove on bob from marketing who sounds like a squeaking rabbit as the all Macho one man army charichter then it can really blow the immersion.

      For example, in the orginal Hitman: Codename 47, IO Interactive had someone who sounded like Professor Frink provide 47's voice.
    • "but they need to properly audition and not just throw the janitor on at the last minute(though some games luck out with asigning staff parts , DMA(now rock star north) infact used their marketing manager for one of the DJs on GTA3."

      I don't know, sometimes talent is closer at hand. Check out the work history of this guy who I think did an excellent voiceover job in his latest two projects:

      http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0970447/
    • but they need to properly audition and not just throw the janitor on at the last minute(though some games luck out with asigning staff parts , DMA(now rock star north) infact used their marketing manager for one of the DJs on GTA3.

      Considering they hired some pretty well known names for the game, I doubt they "lucked out" and just threw a body in there that happened to work.
    • Maybe this guy needs to make the break from film to game play...http://filmsound.studienet.org/cliche/wilhe lmscream.htm [studienet.org]
    • but if you just shove on bob from marketing who sounds like a squeaking rabbit as the all Macho one man army charichter then it can really blow the immersion.

      That's why a developer needs to have multiple titles in production. Put the "squeaking rabbit" type voice actor on a kids' game.

  • They already make decent money for a relatively small amount of work. They are paid to be droids and wookies in video games. How hard is it to scream out "Attack!" 3 different ways into the microphone. It's probably jealousy because they are too ugly to get real acting parts, and need computerized muscle-man and strippers to represent them. If anything, they should pay the developers for making them sexy.

    In all seroiusness they do good work, but they should hardly be paid a large part of the money ga
  • If there isn't one already, one not start one? Bargaining power and all that...but maybe pick something other than Voice Actors Guild...because who wants to be in VAG all the time?

    (sorry, I had to make the obligatory sex joke...)
  • Great voice acting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Winterblink ( 575267 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @01:18PM (#12636880) Homepage
    Look no further than the Legacy of Kain series of games for phenominal voice acting. I swear, those guys that do the voices for Kain and Raziel could make someone speechless and pale by just answering a phone with "Hello". One of the reasons I've kept up with every one of those games has been, in addition to the quality of the story, the insanely great voice acting which really does bring the characters to life (so to speak).
  • And here is yet more evidence that video games have risen to the level of other entertainment media. With a next generation of games that promise to hit us all up for $60 and $70 a pop, you can bet the voice acting is going to be more and more important. So I personally hope that the actors get the residuals they want because in the end I think it will give us all a better product.

    Either way, there will still be games that suck, just like there are movies and tv shows that suck. But you can bet that these
    • Oh yes, there is plenty of Pie, I make video games, I need to get residuals too! All the programmers, artists, marketing everyone should just make huge cash...There is no need for these companies to actually make a profit. They are practically printing money, just like the dot coms used to. (Hmmm why did they stop, that was just so profitable???) 300 bucks isn't too much to ask for a video game huh? That way we could all have a large satisfying chunk of pie. I think people get confused because of the wor
      • Well outrageous or not, residuals are a part of the entertainment industry. And the idea of profit sharing is certainly not outrageous either, the real devil is in the details. And that is what is going to have to be hammered out in this current situation with the voice actors. As for the programmers and other artists putting in tons and tons of blood sweat and tears, well hell yes, they should get a cut of the profits too! I think one key difference right now is the fact that the actors are unionized while
  • It likely wasn't covered becasue it's not really a story. Let's face it, voice acting in games, with a few notable exceptions (GTA pops into my mind), is horrible. Unless I worked on one of these good games, so I could point it out, I'd be embarrassed to say I was a video game voice actor.
    Secondly, did these voice actors not sign a contract saying they would do a certain amout of work for a certain amount of pay? If so, guess what?
    On the final point, I don't care about voice acting in most games. The aforem
    • FYI, there are a lot of games with good voice acting other than GTA. Demon Stone, for instance. Or Chronicles of Riddick. Or Halo 1 & 2. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Etc.

      I bet probably 50% of games now have at least Simpsons-level voice acting, and 15-20% have Disney-movie voice acting.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I mean how much work do programmers, artists, musicians, designers, game testers, directors, and producers do anyway? Surely not as much as the voice actors!

    Seriously if you're doing one day's worth of work for a project that takes a large team several months to over a year to complete, sit down and shut up.
  • I would tell them to find a real job. I think video games focus way too much on the story as it is and not enough on game play(e.g. metal gear solid). If I want a story, I'll rent a dvd.
  • by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @01:55PM (#12637241)
    Just before the first video game crash in the 80's, Mattel Electronics agreed to pay programmers a small fee for each cartridge sold. Alas, they were out of business before they paid out any (much?) money.
  • by Nemius ( 109325 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @02:01PM (#12637303)
    Do the programmers, concept artists, QAT leads and everyone else get a bonus if a game sells xxx copies?
    A few hours in a studio vs months in a cubicle - tell me, who deserves the bonus?
  • They deserve more? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dtfinch ( 661405 ) * on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @02:14PM (#12637458) Journal
    What about the developers and artists, who's jobs actually involve months and months of WORK, and not just 10 minutes in front of a microphone? If the voice actors complain enough, we may start seeing more games with the voices of the developers themselves.
  • Unions to the rescue! WTF.

    So the voice actor isn't being paid fairly at $300+/hr while the programmers and artists pulling 50-80+hr weeks are being paid salaries of 35 to $80k/yr, which if you consider the number of hours they work, isn't a whole lot.

    My response to the voice actors: If $300+/hr isn't enough, don't take the gig. Or better yet, start your own game company.

    Here's some useful info. The people getting "rich" from game development are the company owners/publishers, not the people making the
  • From the Poochie episode, in the recording studio with June Bellamy, the voice of Itchy and Scratchy

    Homer: How'd you get to be so good?
    June: Oh, just experience I suppose. I started out as Roadrunner. [as Roadrunner] Meep!
    Homer: You mean "meep-meep"?
    June: No, they only paid me to say it once, then they doubled it up on the soundtrack. [to herself] Cheap bastards.
  • Was Luke Skywalker (aka Mark Hamill [imdb.com]) there?
  • Shit on them (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Y'know what? I almost got into a shouting match with one of them while I was standing in line to get my badgeholder (which is another absurdity; I already have my goddamn badge but I have to stand in line two hours for the lanyard? but I digress.)

    If the job doesn't pay enough, you're free to quit. Somebody else will be glad to do it for what the companies WILL pay, and you can go back to waiting tables until you land that BIG job in pornography or whatever it is people in Los Angeles consider relevant.

    W
  • So does this mean hand models for watches and jewelry should receive the same benefits? Would be a shame if their hard work wasn't fully paid for.
  • One of the hurdles for making a modern video game is gathering the huge amount of capital required to hire the dozens or hundreds of people involved. Perhaps a profit-sharing arrangement where coders, 3D artists *AND* voice actors take a lower salary in exchange for a share of the distribution would help lower that hurdle.
  • According to this article in the Chicago Tribune the actors are considering going on strike http://www.chicagotribune.com/technology/la-fi-voi ce25may25,1,5456782.story?coll=chi-technology-hed [chicagotribune.com]. It appears that these actors are either members of SAG or the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).
    • There are plenty of voice actors who aren't in AFTRA or SAG willing to scab (and probably a few willing to scab who do have their union cards). Just change your credited name and take your $300 an hour. Many anime voice projects are non-union, and you see union members working on those all the time.

  • If the majority agrees, a strike could take place as early as two weeks from now.
    This is going to delay Duke Nukem Forever's release for SURE!
  • Oy vey (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stonecypher ( 118140 ) <stonecypher@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @04:44PM (#12638885) Homepage Journal
    I was at one of these seminars, and I've got to say, I was quite offended that someone which worked a total of eight hours on a game wants profit sharing when developers who work thousands of hours aren't getting it.

    These guys are getting hundreds of dollars an hour to talk into a mic. Grow up. The people who put the building together aren't getting a share either.
  • What about the quality of the programming, graphics design, and level design? These are more important than the voice actors in my opinion. I just don't see why they should be treated special because they are "actors". If you want that extra money, negotiate for it. If the publisher would rather use a different voice instead of giving you royalties for the next 5 years, so be it. Don't complain about only working two days either, that is like getting paid $37 an hour for 20 days.
  • Get over yourselves and be happy getting paid. Have we learned nothing from the NHL Lockout?! Aaaaiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee!
  • Complaining about celebrity voices in animated films [nwherald.com], Billy West believes that celebrity voices are here to stay, even though they don't guarantee box office success. Here's an interview with him [harrisonline.com] where he elaborates on this phenomenon.
  • They want more money? I want more money first!

    I am a game programmer. The industry as a whole tends to short change the developers. This is pretty well documented with the "EA Spouse" incident.

    On top of that, the job that the voice actors do os not nearly as important as other aspects of game development that are inadequately compensated.

    I would have probably taken the trouble to throw something at these twits if I had been able to get to E3 this year.

    END COMMUNICATION
  • I'm already paying ~£40 for a new game. $375 ph is a lot of money for what voice actors do (or anyone else for that matter). Here are a few places I can see the money being better spent:
    1. Supporting Macs and Linux
    2. Letting Devs take a break, those poor slaves at EA
    3. Reducing the cost of games
    4. Coming up with original franchises don't require voice actors
    • Coming up with original franchises don't require voice actors

      Games rated E typically need at least some level of voice acting to explain at least some of the game to children who have not yet learned to read. If everybody ditches voice actors and concentrates on franchises for the E10 through M ratings, then who will make the E games?


  • To deny working-class performers their fair share of the tremendous profits their labor helps to generate is illogical, unreasonable and unjust

    Is there something that makes a working class performer different from the working class in general? I mean, how many of us have worked for a company that started off small and barely making any profit that grew into a huge money making machine? It sucks to see something become so profitable and have none of that profit work back down to you. It's crap but it'
  • Hi, I'm the Audio Director for Flashbang Studios. We make small web/downloadable games, but we're a teeny tiny studio and budget for an entire game is less than a single voice actor working 8 hours in a studio for $375 dollars. Almost at the garage games level, but my job is to still come up with good audio, somehow.

    I can tell you from personal experience that's it's possible to come up with very good quality audio for cheap by tapping the "semi-professional" vein. Not just conscripting your friends, which
  • Stop doing voiceover completely, and get back to having people READ. Those talk-to-everyone-in-town quests in $rpg got me speed-reading boy -- even if most phrases were, "I do not have any information for you," or its equivalent. I prefer captioning anyhow and usually turn the voice-over volume to minimum so that I can pump up ambient volume.

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